Winter Haven, Florida – On 09/04/2016 The Marine Unit along with components of the Ag Unit responded to Lake Fannie in reference to a disabled vessel and a sunk airboat on the Lake. While en route to the lake, the Winter Haven Fire Department rescued two people holding onto the airboat and three people stranded on the pontoon boat.
Raymond McKee is the owner of both boats. Mr. McKee let his friends borrow his pontoon boat to go out on Lake Fannie. During the trip, a storm approached, and the occupants of the pontoon boat were unable to start the boat. Mr. McKee and his neighbor James Harris responded with Mr. McKee’s Airboat to bring a battery for the pontoon boat. The battery was given to the subjects on the Pontoon boat and they pushed the airboat away from the pontoon boat.
While being pushed away from the pontoon boat a wave came over the starboard side of the airboat and it began take on water. The airboat began to list to the starboard side and sink. As the airboat began to sink, the pontoon boat did not regain power and drifted away. Mr. McKee and Mr. Harris clung to the submerged airboat waiting for first responders.
After being rescued, it was determined that Mr. McKee and Mr. Harris suffered from chemical burns due to the spilt Av-Gas from the airboat. Both subjects were transported to Tampa General Hospital based on the chemical burns.
The pontoon boat was recovered and the occupants were interviewed. The Airboat was marked with a large buoy and GPS coordinates were taken.
On 9/5/16 the owner of the vessel, with the help of two other boats, was able to remove his sunken airboat from the Lake and the PCSO Buoy was recovered. Both occupants of the airboat have been released from the hospital.